It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Guess who’s back, back again?  Roy is back, so tell your friends!

I spent the last week exploring Nebraska with my family.

Did you know we have a 75-foot spring-fed waterfall?  And it’s cold!  Plus high-desert bluffs.  Rattlesnakes and porcupines.  And cacti — in Nebraska!

We camped.  We drove.  We hiked.  We explored.

And we were off-grid.  It’s wonderfully refreshing to simply turn off your internet connection for a few days.  I recommend it!

But now I’m back and revving up for some big announcements in the coming weeks.

Today though, let’s get back into the swing of things with another Mailbox Monday issue.  That’s the weekly issue dedicated to answering YOUR questions.

To have your question on marketing, selling, copywriting, business-growth, or life answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday, simply click here.

Now on to today’s question…


Here’s my biggest challenge right now, that I hope you can answer in a Mailbox Monday issue.

I believe that to write copy authentically you need to get under your prospect’s skin and literally embody them. However as a rookie I am not clear on how to do that. The obvious answer is to “talk to them, hang out with them, walk a mile in their shoes.” That is still not enough for me, even though I consider myself to be an empathic person.

Is it possible to break down the process into steps?



So — in short — you’re looking for a systematic approach to mind-reading?

Good news: the answer is YES!

And you’re onto the short answer.  The short answer is to actually interact with your prospect.  And there’s really nothing better than that.

But the thing is…

Many copywriters and marketers like to try to do this work…

WITHOUT talking to their prospects.



We got into this profession — writing — because we wanted to hide in a cave by ourselves.  But now we’ve gotta go out and — interact?  With other human beings?  Uh oh.

I see how this could be a problem.

But really, that’s not the problem.  Because you interact with people all the time.  The thing is, you do it within specific contexts and frames that lead to it being something that, at the very least, doesn’t completely send you cowering back into solitude.

You go shopping?  You can have a perfectly reasonable conversation with the cashier, without feeling like, “is there a system for this?”

Dining out?  You have a great little chat with your server about their daily specials, without blinking an eye or having a tinge of uncertainty.

And I know that the original question didn’t really hit on this.  But what I’ve found is that consistently this is that when there’s a question about this, it’s most often because there’s a bit of discomfort going out and actually doing the interacting.

Taking it one step further, the original question was really onto something…

A system is exactly what you need to get through this…

The question isn’t so much “What to do?”  It’s “How to do it?”

You can have empathy.  You can be willing to listen.  And to feel what they’re feeling.  But if you don’t know how to bring it out of them — if you don’t know what questions to ask — you’re going to be in deep doo-doo.

Because you’re going to get there, sitting in front of your prospect, and say, “Tell me about your investing.”  And they’re going to not know where to start, so they’ll say, “What do you want to know?”  And you’ll say, “Everything?”  And they’ll grumble.  And the conversation will only take a downward spiral from there.

You want better answers?

You need better questions.

The biggest question you need to have answered…

What are they moving away from, and what are they moving towards?

In other words…

What problem do they have, and what solution do they want?

What pain are they feeling, and what do they want from its cure?

What hell are they experiencing, and what does heaven look like?

If you get this one question right, you WILL connect with them on an incredibly deep level.

This is the ultimate question.  This is what drives the sale.  This is what your success and failure hinges on.

Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method actually does a great job of soliciting this from an entire market.

Basically, you run a survey that says, “What’s your single-biggest challenge with XYZ?”  And depending on things like the length of their answer and their willingness to provide further information for follow-up conversations, you score the answers of hundreds of members of your target market.

You speak to the people with the highest scores, and get a real feel for what it is that they see as an insurmountable or at least highly-difficult challenge in the market.

They will tell you, because you are LISTENING to them.  (Almost nobody ever has anyone really listen to them anymore — so they eat it up when someone actually does.)

They will tell you their pain.  They will tell you what they want.  They will tell you what you need to say.

It’s formulaic.

You have to ask the right question.  But the answer will give you clarity on what your prospects and your market are thinking.

Beyond this, there’s ample research that can and should be done…

Who are they?  What do they read?  What do they think, feel, and believe?  What do they know to be true?

What advertising have they responded to before?  What has been tried that didn’t work?  What do competitors ads look like?  What do the ads of others who sell comparable products to the same market look like?

What have they seen before?  What stories have not been told in the market?

How much do they know about the product or service?  About the general solution it provides?  About the problem you solve?

And of course, what are all the demographic and psychographic categories that represent the core of your market?

This is a long list of questions — the more time you put into answering it, the more beneficial it will be…

This is why many great copywriters actually REDUCE the number of markets they write to over time.

This takes a TON of work.  The ramp-up time on writing to a new market is painful, and long.

You’re much better off writing to a market you know well than to trying to learn a new market for every project.

That said, you should probably at least brush up at the beginning of every project, and try to stay on top of the market on an ongoing basis.

I’m constantly reading financial news.  I have one small investment account that I actively manage, as much to stay in the psychology of an active investor as for the investment returns (I started this in 2008, 2 1/2 years before I started writing much for the investment markets).

I also recently published my Control-Beating Project Pre-Flight Plan that covers a broader set of questions to ask about the market, the product, the offer, the client, and so-on, prior to the starting a copy project.

The key is, you have to figure out what YOU need.  Read this post again.  Take notes about what seems relevant to you.  Perhaps go through my training.  Work with the client for any recommendations they have.

But don’t forget — at some point, you do need to start writing.

And the best form of market research?

A simple test.  Put a message in front of them.  See if it works — or doesn’t.  Then do it again, 1,000 times.

You’ll quickly start to learn the market.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr